The week after a Major always leaves us with a dilemma if some of those in contention decide to grace us with their presence - will their good form continue, will they have run out of steam...always a tough one to call. Just a few days after the heartbreak of losing in a playoff to new Masters Champion Bubba Watson, 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen presents us with the same dilemma again this week - if he beat all but one of the World's elite at Augusta, why on Earth shouldn't he walk away with the Maybank Malaysian Open? If only it were that simple!
There are in fact 5 players returning from Georgia to play this week - Oosthuizen as I've mentioned, former Masters champ Charl Schwartzel (finished 50th), former World number 1 Martin Kaymer (finished 44th) plus Alvaro Quiros and Simon Dyson who both sat the weekend out at Augusta National. Oosthuizen has previous for continuing to compete after a big performance - he finished 4th in Sweden the week after his Open triumph when it would have been far easier to take the weekend off - and if he continues to drive and putt the way he did at The Masters then he'll take all the beating here. However for me I'm going to look elsewhere as I'm sure that mentally that back 9 must have taken it's toll, perhaps more than the relative ease in which he won his Open Championship.
So, with Oosthuizen dropped who else is likely to feature? Schwartzel didn't play well and must be deflated to have given up his Masters title with no real defence; Kaymer did make the cut for the first time but still isn't firing on all cylinders. No, for me, the winner of this will have enjoyed the golf from his armchair last week...
The Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club is an exposed 7,000 yard par 72 which is being used for the 3rd consecutive year for this event. Water is the main threat here with 13 holes featuring a hazard in some shape or form, however in truth this is a relatively straightforward course for the professionals - particularly on the front 9 where a low score can easily be made.
With light winds forecast, the only weather challenge to the players looks to be of the electrical variety once any lingering fog has cleared - with this combination forecast pretty much throughout the 4 days there's a very real chance of this being a reduced tournament, so picking fast-starters and birdie-makers is the key for me this week. My selections are as follows:
I've backed the Italian teenager plenty over the last the last few weeks and the defending champion is a must-bet again for me here. He's been playing very well for a few weeks now without quite being able to stumble over the winning line, however a return to the scene of his second European Tour win here in Malaysia could well be the catalyst required to get him back to winning ways. Forget the missed cut in Sicily, that was understandable after the disappointment of missing a late berth at Augusta the week before - instead look at the form coming into that event of 2/6 and the fact that Manassero has proven he can play this course very well indeed. RESULT: T7
It's not often that I select 2 relatively short-priced players, however there's justification here this week as I simply cannot discount the Belgian bomber this week. There are clearly different ways to get the job done here with Manassero wining last year and Seung-Yul Noh smashing his way to victory the year before with a 305 yard driving average, however one thing's for sure - you'll need to be able to make a decent number of birdies to get the job done, particularly if there's a risk of this turning into a 54-hole event. In that respect there are few others who can attack as fiercely as Colsaerts who finally proved his worth in China last year on route to a 24-under total en route to his first European Tour victory.
2012 has started strongly for Nicolas with 4 top 10s in 7 starts plus a creditable performance at Doral on debut, and he clearly feels he belongs at the higher level of World golf - however players are judged by their victories and Colsaerts needs to start accumulating silverware now that he's made his breakthrough. 3rd on his last outing in Sicily was promising and this exposed track should suit him once again as he can attack the shorter holes to his heart's content. I'd be surprised if he doesn't improve significantly on his 17th place finish here last year and get into contention this week. RESULT: T29
Spaniard Larrazabel is another attacking player who could go very well this week now he's started to regain some form after an indifferent start to 2012. After returning from Doral he's shown progressive form with finishes of 20/9 in Malaga and Morocco respectively and arrives here with his game seemingly in decent nick on a course which will suit him far more than those 2 I've just mentioned. An excellent putter on a variety of surfaces, Pablo has the necessary tools to feature here and could reward us again following his 45/1 victory in Munich last year. RESULT: T24
Larrazabel's compatriot Rafael Cabrera-Bello is another player who I think might just feature this week a couple of months after securing his 2nd - and biggest - professional victory in Dubai which will have boosted his confidence no end. 2 low-key WGC performances and a 47th in Malaga later and the bookies appear to have lost interest in Rafa who, as with all my selections, has the scoring capabilities to succeed around these parts.
Cabrera-Bello proved his liking for this track last year by finishing 4th, and in doing so taking fewer putts than eventual winner Matteo Manassero - I won't be at all surprised to see him bounce back to form here this week at a long price for a man of his capability in this field. The 27 year-old has shown further improvement in 2012 with his irons and putter and could easily progress to bigger things over the next few years now he's had a taste of some of the bigger World events. RESULT: T3
My final selection is the 'Big Dolphin' from Thailand, Prom Meesawat, who has seen a marked increase in form since adopting a new gym-based fitness regime as he attempts to step up a level in his professional career. Following a couple of seasons dogged by injury, the 27 year-old has started 2012 brightly on the Asian Tour with 3 top 10s in 6 starts, one of which was a playoff defeat to the talented Anirban Lahiri at the end of February and a creditable 6th place finish at the co-sanctioned Avantha Masters where he finished 4 shots of the Jbe Kruger's 14-under total - and in doing so equalled the best round of the week on Friday with an faultless 64.
Another top 10 on his last start the week before last suggests that Meesawat is in the right kind of form to improve on his best finishes in this event of 6th and 7th, albeit on different courses to this week's host. The hot, humid conditions will play into his hands and being just 7,000 yards this course won't penalise his lack of length off the tee - instead a good week from tee to green will allow his excellent putting game to come to the fore. RESULT: T24
Our tips, picks and predictions for the 2013 edition of this event will be published here on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon!